Letting go. As a parent I find this particularly difficult. The first night after my eldest child Ava was born, I slept holding her hand all night. I just couldn’t yet break the physical bond between us that had been constant during pregnancy. By the time Ava woke up, my arm was stiff and sore, but it was worth it and in reality what was a sore arm on top of everything else that was aching!
When Ava was almost a year old, my husband and I spent our first night away from her. Ava stayed with her grandparents an hour away. I must have called to check on her so many times, because by about 8.00 pm, my Dad answered the phone with these words: “She is still asleep, just like the last time you called.” He wasn’t irritated – he just knew it would be me and cut to the chase. Of course, Ava was perfectly fine all night and completely happy in the care of Grandma and Grandpa.
Then came the first day of school. I coped with Kindy well because I knew that the teachers would be in close contact with the children all day. But school was a different ballgame. I spent the whole first day praying that Ava would have someone to sit with at lunch time. I resisted the urge to drive past the school and try to peek. She had a great day and hopefully was none the wiser of her mother’s worrying.
When Ava was 13 she was invited to a birthday party at our local beach. The birthday girl’s father would be there but from what I could gather, the girls were free to swim and wander around the area. This was a biggie for me. Ava wanted to go, of course, but knew our hesitation as parents. In the end, we agreed she could attend but that I would be sitting in the car not far away keeping an eye on things. This all sounds rather over the top now that I write it down, but Ava agreed and I armed myself with coffee and a book and spent a quite peaceful afternoon watching the ocean (and the girls). None of Ava’s friends knew I was there, so she was reluctantly OK with the plan.
Now Ava is in Year 12 and thinking ahead to uni next year. I told myself on day one of school this year that I needed to start preparing for next year and the possibility of Ava’s leaving home. Outwardly I am positive about this prospect for Ava’s sake. I know it’s a necessary and exciting step for her, but inwardly, and in conversation with my husband, I am dreading the day. How do I let go? Will the promise of her favourite lasagne dinner bring her home regularly? Wow, that sounds desperate! I just need to be a ‘grown-up’ and trust that she will be fine. I need to take comfort in the fact that she is a responsible, intelligent, resourceful young woman and that she is capable of making good choices. And I need to let her know that I am always here for her when she needs me. Not the other way around. I need to step back and let Ava determine some of the boundaries of our relationship. Very difficult. Yet I know that I will grow as a mother and a person and be better equipped to deal with other ‘letting-go moments’ in life.
Poor Ava has had to deal with all these parental firsts simply because she is the firstborn. She has taught us well and hopefully we will have a better idea of what works as each situation comes along for the other three children. I do jokingly tell myself that by the time Tom is in Year 12, in ten years time, I will be shoving him out the door on the last day with a huge smile on my face. That’s very easy to say now … how I might feel as my baby goes out in to the world is something best not thought about right now, I think.How wonderful that our children forgive us for our mistakes as we navigate parenthood. It really is a journey we take together with our children and if we remember to learn from each step, we will grow in ourselves and be equipped to offer support to others who are facing the same dilemmas and issues along the way. We are not alone as parents. Let’s all support each other to be brave in letting go when necessary and holding on when that is what’s best. And remember that God never lets go. He will continue to watch over Ava when I can’t.
Hmmm … what’s for dinner? … I think lasagne.